HELENA — Democrat John Lewis has filed paperwork to enter the 2014 race for the Montana U.S. House seat held by Republican Steve Daines, becoming the first to formally declare his intentions for that office.
Lewis left his job as state director for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus earlier this month.
The Billings native filed paperwork with the Federal Election commission late last week saying he intends to start raising money for a run at Montana's lone House seat. He is the first new contender for the office to do so this election cycle. Republican Matt Rosendale has filed paperwork that leaves open the possibility of either a House or Senate run.
Daines, the incumbent, is expected by many to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Baucus. Baucus announced earlier this year that he plans to retire when his term ends after next year.
That announcement set off a mad scramble to potentially fill Democratic and Republican races for the seats. Several high-profile Democrats have declined runs.
Daines has been raising money like he is running for the Senate seat with his House re-election campaign account. But he has only said he is considering a run for the higher office.
That has left a long list of Republicans to wait while they consider a move. Two Republicans — former state Sen. Corey Stapleton, of Billings, and state Rep. Champ Edmunds, of Missoula — declared long ago for the Senate race but neither has coalesced party support so far.
Lewis, who was raised in Billings and Missoula, is the first Democrat to start a fundraising committee for either race. A statement offered a glimpse at potential campaign themes.
"John is moving forward because we need more bridge-builders in Congress," said spokesman Aaron Murphy. "Montanans are asking John to be a candidate because we need more independent-minded public servants committed to good-paying jobs and working together to find solutions — like looking after our families and neighbors, and living within our means."
Lewis gained a little notoriety in 2011 as Baucus' state director by meeting with the mayors and local leaders of all 129 cities and towns in the state in one year.